Homeland security: How vulnerable is trucking?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s field officials are currently visiting thousands of the nation’s hazardous materials carriers. The agency’s mission is to increase the level of awareness of hazardous materials carriers to terrorist threats and FMCSA says the visits will not result in a compliance review or enforcement action.

The information being provided by the field staff will be in the form of recommendations and suggestions except those regulatory requirements affecting the actual movement of hazardous materials. FMCSA says these recommendations will need readjusting, based on current conditions, emphasizing that terrorist activities tend to happen in groups. The agency stresses that security should be heightened if new attacks begin and security measures should be increased based on the United States’ military activity in foreign countries.

Highlights of the “Security Talking Points” are outlined below. Basically, this is what the field staff from FMCSA intends to go over with hazmat hauling companies. These recommendations may not apply to all carriers, based on their size and scope of operation. Additionally, this list is not all-inclusive and will be changed based on future priorities to address terrorist threats.

General security information 
The FMCSA will recommend to carriers that a security plan be developed and implemented. It should include: Personal security; hazmat and package control; en-route security; technical innovations, communications and other recommendations.

Personal security 
FMCSA field staffers will ask officials to recognize that employees can be substantial security risks and review a driver list with the official and, if possible, identify those drivers whose names can be linked to one of the countries that have been identified that support terrorist activities. The agency will recommend that detailed background checks be performed on these individuals as required by the regulations; recommend more detailed background checks for suspicious individuals and look at the following for indicators: gaps in employment; frequent job shifts; all names used by the applicant; type of military discharge; citizenship; present and prior residence information; personal references; criminal history; verify U.S. citizenship for all employees. For those employees who are not U.S. citizens, the feds want trucking companies to verify that all immigration papers are on file and properly documented; make sure that interviews are conducted when hiring new drivers/employees; and obtain information that will help to appraise the personality, character, motivation, honesty, integrity, and reliability and to judge his appearance and personal characteristics face to face.

Any information or suspicious activity discovered during the review of these files should be reported immediately to your state DOT for notification of the local FBI office.

Hazardous materials and package contents
Some of the areas FMCSA will go over with trucking companies: Is there adequate lighting for the facility grounds? Are hazmat storage areas at the carrier’s facility secured in fences or buildings? Consider requiring personal identification cards/badges for access to areas with hazmat. The feds will want companies to check the adequacy of locks and other protective measures; require records for removal of hazmat from secure locations; reinforce with drivers the importance to remain aware of their surroundings at all times. The feds will likely ask if the company protects hazmat using alarms and/or other security systems.

The FMCSA wants companies to make careful decisions on whether or not a guard force is appropriate (DOD Shipments, PIH, RAM, other). Also, companies should recommend standard procedures on control of packages. The FMCSA wants companies to educate all personnel on package control measures; provide notices to employees on package control procedures; post procedures prominently at appropriate locations and conduct security spot checks of personnel and vehicles. Other recommendations: Do not accept any hazardous materials shipments from unfamiliar shippers. Perform credit checks and use other readily available services to determine the authenticity of the business (shippers). Be familiar with vendors that service your facility.

En route security 
Here are some recommendations. Avoid high population centers, including downtown and/or metropolitan areas whenever possible. Use alternate routes that avoid high population areas. Ensure that all hazardous materials are delivered expeditiously. Instruct drivers to lock vehicles when stopped.

Avoid tunnels and bridges where possible. Reinforce attendance and parking rules in 49 CFR Part 397. Consider if a guard is appropriate.

Technical innovations 
Make yourself aware of technical innovations that could assist in security such as cell phones, satellite tracking, and surveillance systems. Look at state of the art locks and seals. Are access control systems appropriate? Consider tamper-proof locking features for fifth wheels (so that trailers can’t be stolen).

Consider use of blanket-type alarms that signal when blanket is moved (more appropriate for small carriers). Consider installing electronic engine controls that require a code, in addition to a key, to start a vehicle.

Management prerogatives
If you hire drivers to work for you, include fingerprinting and photographs of applicants in the employment process. Be aware of personal identity theft such as using stolen social security numbers, references, etc.

Consider running criminal background checks on individuals with access to very sensitive materials (explosives, poison gases, biological agents). Consider implementing security training for employees.

Develop a communications network with others in the industry in an effort to share information to determine if there is a pattern of activities that, when taken alone are not significant, but when taken as a whole generate concern. Develop a means of communication within the physical plant and the vehicle (cell phones, satellite tracking, radios, etc.). Is the system capable of reaching all key personnel?

Security messages should be presented to employees in various methods such as newsletters, bulletin boards, etc.

If drivers witness suspicious activity request that drivers watch for any suspicious activities in their vicinity. If drivers should witness any suspicious activities, they should immediately report it through 3-1-1 or 9-1-1.